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St. Louis Rams: It's All About 3rd Down...

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Rams' offense is mired at the bottom of the NFL's list when it comes to time of possession; ranking 30th ahead of only Miami and Philadelphia. It springs from a problem converting third down opportunities, and Jeff Fisher is hoping a player like Todd Gurley can fix, or at least improve, the Rams offensive chances of staying on the field...

St. Louis quarterback Nick Foles is both right, and unabashed, when he says his offense has to do more to help the team's defense. Averaging 35 minutes and 11 seconds per game, the defense can't maintain any kind of control over an opposing team's offensive indefinitely. What Gurley may be able to do is make third down situations more "do-able", with shorter yardage to go for a first down.  Yet, in my experience, NFL defensive coordinators key in quickly on narrowed player options. Stacking the box, or keying linebackers on Gurley, will more than like limit 3rd down up-trends.

Frank Cignetti Jr. - the rookie offensive coordinator for the Rams - has to do more to expand his play calling options. Third down with 4+ yards to go seems to be the Rams tipping point when it comes to futility, and the best option for changing this "3-in-out" trend may very well be a player Rams fans have been groaning about for a while now: Jared Cook. The highly paid tight end hasn't blossomed into the key position player Jeff Fisher thought he would, and his lack of blocking skills doesn't help. Used more to hit long seems in the 15-ish range under safeties, he needs to become a Slot WR/TE hybrid to improve the Rams chances on third downs.

Not known for his love of heavy contact, he needs to start dropping into the land on linebacker giants. Cignetti may very well need to leave the under-safety zone in the 12 to 15 yard range to his hyper-speedy receivers like Tavon Austin, or Stedman Bailey. I'm not saying Cook can't do the longer route job, but if you watch film of his routes they appear to take too long to materialize into a viable route tree option for Nick Foles. The time in pocket clock doesn't wait long to ring, and Cook's half-second or more lag time needed to extend his patterns has become problematic.

Jared Cook need to start acting like a tight end, and less like his personal vision of being a wide receiver.

Todd Gurley will alter the third down paradigm for the Rams, but the lack of other options to move the first down chains for the Rams - and keep the St. Louis defense off the field - is the linch-pin for this team's entire 2015 NFL season...